Armenia in History and the Heart

Where is Armenia, the place, the idea? Where then? Where now? And how come the delight on top of the darkness in saying “I am Armenian”? Armenians were a tiny, ancient Indo-European people, between East and West, the first Christian nation, when Turkey wiped most of them off the map in 1915. It was the twentieth century’s grotesque model of mass slaughter of a people, a genocide by any measure. Yet there the Armenians are today—6, 7, maybe 8 million people in 80 countries of the world: a lively, secret club, somebody said: invisible to non-members but instantly recognizable to other Armenians. A world people with their own alphabet, language, cuisine, music, nightmares abounding—but art, too, and humor, despite everything.

Young Armenian dancers perform for their families at the Culturel Alex Manoogian de l’UGAB in Paris, France. The Armenian community in France, largely made up of the descendants of Armenian genocide survivors is the largest in Europe, and is extremely influential. They played an active role in the French resistance and in French culture overall – especially famed singer and actor Charles Aznavour. Photo credit: Scout Tufankjian.

The mass slaughter of Armenians in Turkey starting in 1915 is a bone still stuck in the throat of history. And it’s a jagged scar, an area of darkness in the hearts of a global diaspora. More than a million people were killed, much more than half of the Armenian nation, a century ago. It’s an atrocity brazenly denied ever since by the government of Turkey, a crime unrecognized by most nations, acknowledged finally as a genocide this spring by President Biden. Both branches of Congress voted that verdict against Ottoman Turkey two years ago. We’re listening this radio hour not for the politics of the story but for the personal experience of unspeakable loss among survivors and their descendants—family histories too horrible to be forgotten, or remembered.

Banner photo courtesy of Nubar Alexanian. Special thanks, too, to Laura Purutyan and Lerna Ekmekcioglu.

Guest List
Nubar Alexanian
Photographer and documentarian.
Scout Tufankjian
Christina Maranci
Professor of Armenian art at Tufts.
Reading List
Armenia! (Exhibition)
Metropolitan Museum of Art

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